March 5, 2013

Regarding Ruth Marcus’s Feb. 27 op-ed column, “A real Yahoo move”:

The debate sparked by Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to compel her company’s workers back to the office reeks of opportunity lost.

Rather than engendering a substantive conversation about the implications of mobile work, many of them positive — for employees as well as employers, cities, suburbs and the environment — the discussion has focused on child care and the flexibility that telecommuting affords. Pundits decry the “let them eat cake” quality of Ms. Mayer’s decision, citing the nursery she built next to her office and the $100 million salary that enabled it, but they gloss over the larger opportunities that abound with the prospect of large-scale adoption of mobile work.

At the core of this debate is the question of sustainability: Should we as individuals sustain psychically damaging commutes? Can the environment and urban infrastructure handle inevitable growth if current practices remain unchanged? Or might we imagine a new way of working that facilitates collaboration, nurtures our social needs and improves the quality of our lives overall while significantly contributing to the viability and vibrancy of our cities?

We need a nuanced conversation, not a polarizing debate about one CEO’s motives.

Mina Wright, Bethesda

The writer is chair of the National Capital Planning Commission’s Urban Design Taskforce.